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New Preserve on Pine Mountain Connects Protected Areas

Warbler Ridge Preserve

The Warbler Ridge Preserve on Kentucky’s Pine Mountain in fall. Photo by Bill Lancaster

In December, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust announced the protection of 1,368 acres on Pine Mountain and the creation of Warbler Ridge Preserve. This acquisition connects with land protected by KNLT in 2017 to form the 2,456-acre preserve. The nonprofit organization has spent the last 25 years working to preserve the roughly 180,000-acre ridgeline in Eastern Kentucky for future generations.

“Pine Mountain is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the state of Kentucky as well as Central Appalachia,” says KNLT Executive Director Greg Abernathy.

To date, government agencies and nonprofit organizations have managed to safeguard 68,500 acres of Pine Mountain, according to Abernathy. He states that KNLT is responsible for protecting approximately 15,000 acres of that.

The land trust bought the newest tract for $1.36 million from the Southeast Education Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College. The foundation plans to use the funds for scholarships and projects on campuses throughout the state.

Southeast Education Foundation Board Chair Ed Harris told the Lexington Herald-Leader that money from the sale will help educate people for new careers as the region works to diversify and rebuild from the loss of coal jobs.

“The money will just be a blessing to us,” Harris told the Herald-Leader. “It will really help the community.”

American Black Bear

An American black bear. Photo by Marc Evans/KNLT

The Warbler Ridge Preserve adds yet another area to KNLT’s Pine Mountain Wildlands Corridor project, establishing safe migration routes and habitat for wildlife.

“Each puzzle piece sort of adds to the overall linear connectivity along the corridor,” says Abernathy. “There’s a slew of species that you find along the Pine Mountain Corridor like the American black bear, which has been returning to Kentucky for some time now. It had been extirpated at one point, and Pine Mountain is considered to be one of the corridors that helped it find its way back to the state.”

Pine Mountain is home to many rare plant and animal species, some of which reside in the Warbler Ridge Preserve. The preserve also provides habitat to the endangered Indiana and northern long-eared bats in the summer. Additionally, the headwaters of several Kentucky and Cumberland river tributaries are located in the preserve. These tributaries are important drinking water sources for communities and habitat for aquatic species.

Great Eastern Trail

Hikers walk along the Pine Mountain section of the Great Eastern Trail. Photo by Greg Abernathy/KNLT

Aside from being a migration route for wildlife, the Pine Mountain Corridor also hosts the Kentucky section of the 1,800-mile Great Eastern Trail. The trail, which is still under construction, is slated to stretch from Alabama to New York and will go through the Warbler Ridge Preserve.

“This project illustrates our science-driven and community-minded conservation work,” said Abernathy in a press release. “The new preserve safeguards biodiversity while supporting the emerging outdoor recreation industry and the local community college system. This was a notable achievement that has significant benefit for the region.”

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2020-2021 — Winter

2020-2021 — Winter

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